Couple Are Jailed For Child Abuse

A County Armagh couple who abused their children over a period of 10 years have been sent to prison for a total of six and a half years. The 37-year-old man was sentenced to four and a half years, while his partner, 41, was jailed for two years.

Neither of them can be named to protect the identity of their victims. Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard the abuse only came to light after one of their sons committed suicide.

The children at the centre of the trial told the court that daily beatings had become a way of life. They described how they could be beaten with a belt, a rubber stick or were slapped or punched across the head. They said the violence against them could be triggered by any number of things ranging from talking in their bedroom to taking too much cheese in a sandwich.

The court heard that during the time of the abuse they were too frightened to tell anyone what was happening. One of the boys had been told that he would be stabbed or shot if he told anyone about the violence.

Passing sentence, Lord Justice Girvan said the violence used had also caused the children “emotional upset and trauma” and that the man had behaved cruelly by his constant use of “physical violence and verbal abuse”. He said: “(The man) must have taken some pleasure in the violence and the degree of control it gave him over the children and family.”

Turning to the man’s partner, the judge said while it appeared she “played a passive role, the evidence pointed to the conclusion she was frequently a catalyst by reporting claimed breaches of discipline in the knowledge of what his likely reaction would be”. He said she “directly and conclusively encouraged him to follow his path of discipline”.

The judge added that the couple “must have known their conduct was wholly unacceptable” and would have been seen as such if it had been known by others. “They were clearly aware of this and they tried to suppress evidence and when the allegations were made they pressurised the children to change their stories,” he said.